This is to say I received the book you sent my way. I’m on page 107, noticed that page 89 arrived with an earmark. I was tempted to go back and earmark page 46 in which Manhattan was described as succeeding early on as a great harbor, but failing at first as a city.
I didn’t read the book for two days after reading that passage because I spent time thinking about when and where this has been true in my life. What makes for a good harbor in people? What makes for a good city? I notice when I think about this, it’s the harbor qualities that beckon me, turn my head. There’ll be more on that later, probably when I get out my tugboat book. Right now, both books are secured in a locked room–no way can the pups do to these books what they did to an earlier book.
Sugar on a rope showed up in the early pages of this book. Not only were clotheslines used between buildings to dry laundry, but these lines were also to exchange cups of sugar. Imagine! Sugar on a rope. Sidewalks weren’t the only means for getting from one point to another. The rooftops were commonly used, but I suppose everyone but me knew that already. (Remember I grew up without rooftops, miles and miles from the nearest town . . .)
The sense of community has been impossible to escape while reading this book about the later 1800s and early 1900s of NYC. The book documents a spirit on the streets, a prevailing sense of doing whatever must be done. I didn’t expect to find such prairie pioneer spirit in Manhattan’s streets. I found myself realizing my maternal grandmother might have come from here, had she not grown up on a homestead in Eastern Montana.
My grandmother taught us not to complain. An early poem of mine was published in Touch: The Journal of Healing
, explaining the way she moved through life. I’m not sure about how many fish were caught back in the days in NYC, but I know for sure more fish was caught there than we had sugar on any rope back west of there.
She stored her mercy
in an old bandage tin.
The hinged lid, with sliding clasp,
groaned each time it was needed.
There were patches for faith, rolled
gauze for trust and tubes of forgiveness
It hung by her kitchen stove
next to the match dispenser
below the ‘kwitcherbellyachin’ motto
Gramma-great burned into a left-over
slice of barn door.
She filled it with sunrise blush
and that center skip in hopscotch,
sprinkled in a somersault’s pause
and the tug from a six-pound trout line.
Whatever you take out, you put back in
was the rule she taught her children.